A fiery start to the season, followed by a small slump, and finally catching up with four straight wins that included a sweep on the reeling Angels. This is what the Texas Ranger’s season consisted of so far in this crazy beginning.
But how much is a reality and how much is this is giving us hope only to let down mid-summer similar to years past? So many things have gone right for this team, and there are many things that have gone wrong, so let’s check out how the Rangers are looking.
Sweeping Mike Trout’s Angels
The Rangers completed an incredible comeback in the series finale of the Athletics series behind Elvis and Delino DeShields, only to follow up with an even better encore. Mike Minor, Lance Lynn, and Jose Leclerc showed out for Arlington against their division rival who destroyed them in their first series of the season.
Mike Minor shutout the Angels in a complete game on April 16th, allowing just 3 hits and improving his ERA to a sterling 2.60 on the season. The New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies have expressed interest in the veteran already this season, but it would be foolish for the Rangers to let Minor go so early without testing the rest of the market. Expect Minor to be a Ranger into early June, hoping to maximize his value on the trade market.
Jose Leclerc saved two games in the series, and even though he loaded up the bases in the finale, he figured a way to allow just one run and earn the save for his 5th on the year. He earned an extension purely based on potential after a strong 2018 season and looks to be on track to be a top 10 closer in the MLB for future years. Last season he was on the trade block but didn’t garner the value the Rangers wanted for him, so they did the next best thing and extended him before the season.
A Look Ahead: Astros visit Arlington
Pitching will be a huge factor against the defending division champs, but with Minor to miss this series for a start, who will step up? On the docket, the Astros have Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Collin McHugh in line for the starts in Arlington…yikes. Cole and Verlander are easily the best starters in Houston, and they will be tough to match up against.
Combined, the three starters have 93 strikeouts on the season but have given up 8 home runs as well, which leads to a silver lining for the Rangers. Verlander has given up four home runs alone in 23 innings pitched, so expect to see plenty of left-handed hitters in the lineup. He also holds the highest batting average against among the group starting versus Texas at .207, which is incredible, but once again, he has the highest among Cole, McHugh and himself.
In his 4 starts this year, Collin McHugh has the best ERA at 1.96, which is lower than his career high last season which was a sparkling 1.99 out of the bullpen. He has 27 strikeouts to just 7 walks and is quickly becoming a strong number three for the rotation for future seasons.
Keys to Victory
Pitching, duh, will need to perform at an extremely high level to compete with the Astros. The Rangers pitchers line up for starts are Drew Smyly, Adrian Sampson, and Shelby Miller (insert crying emoji here). All three starters are still looking for their first wins on the season, and luck so has it that they face the best team in the division. They will need to find a way to keep the game from becoming a shootout, as the Astros have 26 home runs on the season, Jose Altuve being the leader of the clubhouse in the category with 7.
Sampson in his first start gave up 7 runs to Oakland but was bailed out by the bullpen and heroics of Elvis, Delino DeShields, and Danny Santana, with a little help from Woodward. He only went four innings until he was run off by the hitting barrage of Oakland. Miller and Smyly are also pitchers that will give the Rangers about 4-5 innings before they begin to face the lineup a second or third time, which is usually when the wheels fall off the wagon and opposing offenses figure out the pitching and begin to put together rallies. The bullpen will be big once again if the starters can’t go deep into the games. The combination of Jeffrey Springs, Jesse Chavez, and Jeanmar Gomez will be key in aiding the starting pitching in these matchups.
Discipline at the plate will be huge since the Astros have their best two starters on the mound in back to back games. No pitcher is untouchable, so being patient is key. Gallo blasted two home runs in back to back game against LAA, but finished the series with a 3 K game, reminding Rangers Nation how he can disappear at times for the team.
Shin Soo-Choo, however, has been on a tear this homestand, going 9-18 with three walks since the beginning of the Oakland A’s series. This lineup is filled with great hitters, but discipline will be key at the plate if they want to be able to compete with the stellar pitching of Houston.
Chris Woodward is actually a huge wild card this series, as he has found a way to coach up this young team and keep them focused on the task at hand. Against the Athletics, he made a pinch-hit move by bringing in rookie Danny Santana for Patrick Wisdom, with Santana ripping a game-tying triple in the bottom of the 8th. The shuttle moves by Woodward will be key in mitigating the Astros bats and maximizing the Rangers effectiveness on the mound and at the plate. The players are buying into his philosophy, as they have pushed forward to a surprising start to the season without second baseman Rougned Odor.
The strongest part of this team is the hitting so far, with the ability to light up the scoreboard and score runs in a flurry. If the Rangers can keep the score close and fight through the barrage of Astros starting pitching, the series can easily fall into the Rangers’ favor. These are two offenses that can score at will at times, and while no pitcher is invincible, the Rangers will have their hands full this series.
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